As the first hackathon for the combined YOOX NET-A-PORTER GROUP kicks off in our development centres of Bologna and London, I’d like to explain why NET-A-PORTER ran internal Hackathons for several years, and why we’ll continue to do so as the YOOX NET-A-PORTER GROUP.
For our most recent hack day, I worked with my colleagues Antonio Barone and Nelio Nunes to implement an alert-me-when function for our site. In production, we use Solr at the moment as the search engine to serve our frontend. Unfortunately, implementing alerting functionality with it means you have to go down a do-it-yourself route.
As soon as I joined NET-A-PORTER I was absorbed into the company Fantasy Football League by equal parts peer pressure and wanting to look cool. The first season took its toll. Forget lying in on a Saturday — I needed to triple-check my captain selection, I wouldn’t dare to take a holiday in case a player got injured while I was away, never mind the fear of forgetting about double-game weeks. After a respectable lower-middle-half-table finish, I needed a break — a long break.
The NAP Tech team consists of multiple sub-teams, so naturally there is some friendly competition; when a company-wide league was announced, I knew I had come out of retirement.
We have two main leagues: one strictly for NAP Tech; and NET-A-LIGA (a.k.a. big boy school), the company-wide league for people who know what they are doing.
If we were going to make this a real success, we had to amplify the rivalry and the potential for gloating — that is what this post is about.
At a recent meeting, some ideas for an office event were being discussed, and people were considering hiring a photo-booth for the evening. I had a huge lightbulb moment: we’ve had a photo booth in the office and at some staff events already — why do we keep paying other people to do this? Surely we can create our own for a fraction of the cost?
How hard can it be?
This is the question I set out to answer in our most recent Hack Day.
As our latest hack days approached, rather than the usual panic of biting off more than I could chew and getting everything done in a huge rush, I decided I was just going to fix something that annoyed me. I was also going to miss one of the two hack days as I was off on holiday, so I knew I had to keep the idea small. All that said, the best decision I made was enlisting the help of my venerable colleague Colin Dearing — more on why later.
Previously for our Hack Days, I’d been inspired by technical issues that are more commonly known as ‘Technical Debt’. Usually these are things that prevent me from being able to deliver features to the business. For example, a mechanism to black-box test our Order Importer, which later came in very handy as part of a significant project that happened about a year after writing that code. Good job that code wasn’t thrown away!
Our next Hack Day was fast approaching, and I didn’t feel there were any obvious quick hacks that I could provide a proof-of-concept for in two days, especially on my own. So I had a nosey at the wiki page that had been set up for people to post their ideas, and possibly draw in some interest and extra hands. This entry at the top (with the head of IT’s name beside it!) caught my eye: